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Public presented with hypothetical view of town center in 2049

By AMANDA SCOTT

Staff writer

The public process for deciding design ideas for a future Prince Frederick came to a close last week, as the consulting firm hired by the county to lead the process presented its draft master plans.

The Lawrence Group, the firm brought in to lead the charrette, presented its master plan designs as well as any policy recommendations for the Prince Frederick town center at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church during the final charrette meeting. A charrette is a multi-day public process for land development, including design workshops, public visioning and stakeholder interviews.

During the presentation, it was evident the proposed vision would take a lot of time and decision making at the county level, and from residents, before coming to fruition.

“Prince Frederick is really too big to be a town center, but it’s big enough to be a town ... with multiple town centers,” said Craig Lewis, managing principal and director of planning with The Lawrence Group.

The design and plans Lewis presented demonstrated what Prince Frederick may look like in 2049 when there are about 6,500 residents and more than 5,000 high-quality jobs. Included in that vision are several mixed-use townhome and apartment neighborhoods; the shopping centers have been revamped to include high-quality tenants and mixed-use infill development; there is a public square in the Historic Courthouse District; the “Hospital District” has expanded across Route 2/4, which is crossable with streetscaping and medians; and pedestrians and bicyclists have up to 6 miles worth of trails and paths to get anywhere in the town.

Overall, The Lawrence Group’s design would increase the existing 1,689 acres in the town center by 529 net acres, resulting in a 2,228-acre town center. The increase includes added land north of Calvert Memorial Hospital and to the west of the town center to include the College of Southern Maryland Prince Frederick Campus. The southern portion of the town center is proposed to be excluded from the town center boundary as well.

The consulting firm also proposed three districts for the town center: the Hospital District, a Cultural District that would encompass Calvert High School and the proposed Armory Square, and the Civic District along Main Street. In addition to the districts, the firm proposed 10 activity centers, such as CSM, the Edward T. Hall Aquatic Center, Calvert Memorial Hospital, the Calvert Library Prince Frederick, Calvert Pines Senior Center and one at each of the public schools within the town center.

The housing density in Prince Frederick, which is currently permitted at a maximum of 10 or 12 units per acre, would be about three units per acre with all of the proposed housing in the town center.

“There’s a lot of clustering and better utilization of land as a whole,” Lewis said.

As far as retail in the town, the design calls for 700,000 to 825,000 square feet of new retail. Lewis explained that currently, there’s enough retail in the town to fill two regional malls, “so this would be adding about two-thirds of another one.”

The design also includes 11 to 15 acres of public space and 10 to 25 acres of athletic fields. Of note are the eight outdoor spaces throughout the town for sporting events, gatherings, picnics and other special events, not including neighborhood parks and playgrounds. The consulting firm also added extensive streetscaping and plant infill throughout the town along roadways, Route 2/4 and in parking lots.

The centerpiece of the town, though, would be Armory Square — a walkable, mixed-use village center, according to the design. The Lawrence Group presented four options for the square. Several included an area for a large retailer, while all had a range of retailing options with entertainment and restaurants. All options retained the Armory building but repurposed it for a community need, such as a community center, a black box theater, offices or a farmers market. All four options have a 1- to 1½-acre public space with extensive landscaping stretching into the entire square.

The consulting firm also made its own revisions to the Prince Frederick Loop Road, such as altering starting and ending points and changing where the road would lay because of the hilly topography for which the road is currently proposed.

Where Church Street and Armory Road intersect Main Street, the consulting firm placed an oblong-roundabout to mitigate the danger of the current intersection setup and to add streetscaping.

Around the CSM campus, part of the proposed added land in the town center, the firm proposed either some type of housing or the possibility of an employment center.

For land east of the Hospital District, some of the existing hospital area along the completed Chesapeake Boulevard would be converted into a retirement village or housing, according to the firm’s design. As a long-range option in the Hospital District, the consulting firm presented a design of what the area surrounding the current hospital and aquatic center could look like should the hospital decide to expand. Athletic fields are also another option the firm presented for the land around the aquatic center.

“These things aren’t set in stone,” Lewis said. “There’s still a decision-making process to go through.” And, Lewis pointed out, any changes to Prince Frederick won’t be immediate.

“It’s not going to happen overnight. They’re opportunities for change over time,” he said, adding that it’s up to the county and the residents “to decide the pace.”

To submit further comments or for more information about the charrette process, the results of the charrette or The Lawrence Group’s designs, contact the Calvert County Department of Community Planning and Building at 410-535-1600, ext. 2356, or go to the Prince Frederick Town Center webpage on the Calvert County website at www.co.cal.md.us/index.aspx?nid=1411.

ascott@somdnews.com